Last month I observed on my Twitter feed that it looked like Flattr is losing traction, compared with something as “old school” as Google AdSense service. At the time I was confronted by one angry user, who seemed to think I don’t know what I’m saying. Given that I’m probably one of the early adopters (although not too early, admittedly), it didn’t make much sense.
I repeated the same concerns a few days ago, after coming back from my (long-needed) vacation, as I could compare the Flattr revenue with the AdSense one.. Flattr did come out on top, but for less than half an euro difference. Not really an indication of Flattr performing any better. If anything, considering that I have much more content with Flattr buttons than I have with ads, it is performing relatively worse.
Turns out I’m not the only one concerned with Flattr’s well-being — and I remember Michal being one of the early adopters of the idea as well.
Why does this happen? It’s a very tough question to ask, but I might theorize a few reasons that make sense to me — your mileage may vary though.
First of all, Flattr wanted to expand its reach and removed the first barrier it had, which required you to spend money to receive money. While such a requirement made it a closed circle, which Flattr didn’t want to be, it also ensured that there was not a “money black hole”. Nowadays, you can be flattr’d without even flattr’ing anyone.. it can easily be seen as right from one point of view, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. This also tends to ignore one detail: if you have things that are being flattr’d, you never had to keep adding money to your balance.. you could just convert the revenue into means. I think that myself I only added the original €10 to the account, and I’m flattr’ing through the means since then…
This leads me straight into another issue that probably make Flattr not an option for many: the fees. As Michal points out, the 10% fee that Flattr takes is … hefty. But that wouldn’t be the trouble if the fee was applied to the fund you add to your account. Instead, the fee is applied, each month, to the revenue you receive. Which means that, once I transfer the funds to the means, they’ll be cut another 10% when they are transferred to my flattr’d targets. Honestly, it bothers me; not as much as stopping from using it, but it does bother me.
Then there is the most obvious problem which is what most people, including me and Michal, already noted before: it is hard to find flattr’able content! It’s not that there isn’t much content that is flattr’able (there is quite a bit), but for people like me who like to use Google Reader over Twitter to read news (i.e. using the feed and not a link to the blog itself), it’s difficult to know when the post you just read and saved you ton of time comes from an author that does use flattr. It’s not much of a technical issue – it is true that Typo does not allow me to automatically add content at the end of the posts, but it wouldn’t stop me – as much as most Planets (which is what I use to find posts, for what it’s worth) who seem to frown upon such “advertisement”.
At this point.. I’m honestly doubtful about its well-being.. so if one day you no longer see a Flattr button on this blog.. you know why.